Nearly 34 years after Elan School student Phil Williams Jr. was buried in an unmarked grave, his sister Pam Newell and their father this weekend visited a headstone bought for him by strangers through a GoFundMe campaign.

“It was closure for us, partially,” Newell said Monday. “I tried to climb in the grave with him (the day of Phil’s funeral). I remember being dragged away from the cemetery. That’s all I did remember before, and now I have a good memory. I have some peace.”

In March, Williams’ death became the subject of a police investigation after witnesses came forward to claim the Auburn 15-year-old died a day after collapsing in the Elan School’s boxing ring in Poland. They claimed he’d been ordered into the infamous boarding school’s ring to fight as punishment for complaining about a headache.

Lt. Brian McDonough, head of the Maine State Police Southern Maine Major Crimes Unit, said Monday its investigation is nearly complete.

“I don’t anticipate it’s going to be too much longer,” McDonough said. “Then that will be turned over to the attorney general’s office for review. There have been several witnesses who have been located, along with finding some old documentation out there. I think we’ve been pretty fortunate in that sense.”

The controversial school was founded in 1970 by psychiatrist Gerald Davidson and businessman Joe Ricci. Ricci’s widow, Sharon Terry, ran it after his death.

The AG’s office will decide whether to pursue charges against anyone related to Elan. 

“I think (there will be) a public disclosure one way or the other,” McDonough said.

Newell, 45, of Lewiston, was 12 when Phil died in 1982. At the time, their father was in prison for conspiracy to commit murder, their mother was nearly unresponsive in a nursing home and Newell was in foster care. Phil had been sent first to the Maine Youth Center, then to Elan in Poland, for bouts of aggression often linked to migraines.

The family was told he died of a brain aneurysm.

In March of this year, Mark Babitz, a Chicago-area man who’d been sent to Elan as a ward of the state of Illinois in the 1970s, came to Maine and started poking into rumors about Phil’s death.

Two witnesses told the Sun Journal they’d seen Phil get beaten by several other youths before collapsing and convulsing. 

Newell heard last month from a Florida woman who confirmed many of those same details. She and Phil had been, unofficially, boyfriend and girlfriend.

Elan, which closed in 2011, didn’t allow relationships between the teenagers.

“She was the only one allowed from Elan to go to my brother’s funeral,” Newell said. “She cried through the whole conversation. She was so emotional. It was rough. She was obviously still shaken by the whole thing 33 years later.”

In a sad twist, the woman died suddenly two weeks ago before talking to police.

“The day she passed, (the detective) left a message on her machine,” Newell said.

Newell’s family laid flowers on Phil’s grave in her memory during their visit Sunday to Coughlin Cemetery in Rockland. 

Newell said she spent most of her adult life assuming Phil had a headstone. The family had scattered. It was painful to think about.

“I was one angry little girl,” she said. “I started doing drugs, drinking and off I went. I didn’t care about anything until I found the right people and I just never went back. I didn’t want to bring up all the bad things. I should have, and I’m so sad that I didn’t. I live with a lot of regret now and it’s the most horrible feeling in the world. Now I’ll make up for it; that’s all I can do.”

She started a GoFundMe page this spring, raising $1,800 in seven days from nine people, most of them strangers. She said she contributed $20, what she could.

“There was nowhere to go to pay your respects,” Newell said. “Now he has a place where anybody can go if they want to.”

The rose-colored stone marks his spot.

Newell said she’s stayed in touch with police the past two months and feels optimistic.

“Each day that (the case is) open, I have more and more hope,” she said. “I’m never giving up hope on Phil. I just really think he should have some justice. They should not have put him in a ring with his head problems. They should not have put any kid in any ring — they just should not. If that was me putting a child in a ring, I would go to jail. Come on, now, why is there any debate about it? Let’s go. Rack them up, line them up, move them out.”

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